In any company worth its salt, there's one position that gets paid more money than any other. It's even paid better than the one titled CEO. Better yet, it comes with only one key responsibility -- to make sure that the executive team does its work properly. Best of all, quite often, it's a position that's yours for the taking.

What is this absolutely amazing job? Owner. When it comes right down to it, the CEO and the executive team ultimately work for the company's owners. And just like your boss gets paid more than you do, so should their bosses get paid more than they do. How do you become an owner? With any decent dividend-paying company, you can get this job simply by buying some stock.

Of course, in raw dollar amounts, the CEO will still likely take home a higher salary than you. Looked at across all the shareholders collectively, though, the payout to the owners should easily dwarf the chief's. If it doesn't, be sure to ask, "Why not?" If you don't get a reasonable answer, then it's a pretty good sign that the executives run the company on their behalf, rather than yours.

Executive-focused company management may work for the short run, but over time, it's ultimately self-defeating. After all, executives can't run a company all by themselves. If they step on the owners' toes, chances are pretty good they're walking all over the employees', too. Without satisfied employees, there's no way the company can operate at its peak for very long. If you're investing to build real wealth for yourself, you'd better be sure that you own companies where the executives understand their responsibilities to you.

Why it works
Ultimately, of course, it's in the executives' long-term best interests to treat you right. After all, they themselves are usually owners, too. When you benefit from dividends, so do they. More importantly from their perspective, it makes no sense to kill the goose that lays their golden eggs. They might be able to manipulate their way to some short-term personal gains, but most financial slight-of-hand ultimately backfires. While a well-diversified investor may feel a little pain from a corporate implosion, executives stand to lose their jobs and a huge fraction of their net worth.

There are many other reasons to invest in companies that pay strong dividends. Among them are:

  • The cash itself from the payment.
  • A reasonable shot at inflation-protected income growth.
  • An honesty check on the company's accounting.
  • The chance to compound your wealth through reinvestment.

Those properties of dividends make them extremely valuable to intelligent investors. Anything that's valuable has a higher price attached to it, making those shares worth more. Smart executives know this, and they'll do whatever they can to make sure they run the businesses in their charge accordingly.

Winning owners
According to data compiled from a combination of Forbes magazine and Yahoo! Finance, the following companies compensate their owners quite well:


CEO Compensation

Owner Compensation /
Total Dividends Paid


Washington Mutual (NYSE:WM)




Washington Post (NYSE:WPO)




McDonald's (NYSE:MCD)




Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT)




Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ:COST)




General Growth Properties (NYSE:GGP)




Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)




Every one of these companies pays its owners at least 100 times as much as it pays its CEO. Yet the only responsibility of those owners is to make sure that the executives continue to manage the company appropriately. From an investor's perspective, it's a beautiful thing.

At Motley Fool Income Investor, lead advisor James Early seeks out those companies that pay their owners far better than their executives. When you invest that way, you buy only those firms that treat their shareholders well. Join us today to start getting paid by your portfolio. Your 30-day free trial gives you access to all our recommendations. Get started here.

At the time of publication, Fool contributor Chuck Saletta owned shares of Microsoft and his wife owned shares of General Growth Properties. Washington Mutual is an Income Investor selection. Costco is a Stock Advisor choice. Microsoft and Wal-Mart are Inside Value picks. The Fool has a disclosure policy.